Paul Ryan Isn’t Sure How To “Detoxify” The Speaker’s Office

Photographed by Jessica Nash.
Paul Ryan has only been in the Speaker’s office for a few days, but already he’s looking to make some major changes — ones that will actually attract bipartisan support. Ryan, who is known for being extremely health-conscious, is appalled at the cigarette stench that his predecessor, John Boehner, left behind in the office. “You know when you ever go to a hotel room or get a rental car that has been smoked in? That’s what this smells like,” he said on Meet the Press. Boehner is a heavy smoker who apparently has been known to leave his offices smelling like ashtrays. When Republicans gained control of Congress in the 2010 midterm elections, Boehner and Democrat Nancy Pelosi had to swap offices. The stench Pelosi found was so difficult to eliminate that the House superintendent was forced to strip the office's paint and replace the carpets and curtains. Washington, D.C. banned smoking in public places in 2006, and smoking has been forbidden in all buildings owned or leased by the Executive Branch since 1997 — but neither of those restrictions apply to Congress. Members are free to smoke in their offices as they please, though smoking is banned in the lobby off the House floor.
Ryan is a health enthusiast who proselytizes his P90X workout nearly as much as he advocates his policies, and he has made getting rid of this smoke stench a priority. The task is made even more urgent by the fact that Ryan often sleeps in his office during the week. (The detoxification could probably be accomplished over a weekend, though, since Ryan spends them with his family in Wisconsin — a much-criticized habit, given that Ryan doesn’t support comprehensive family leave for all workers.) Of course, Ryan isn’t sure how he’s going to clear the air. His first option is an ozone machine to “detoxify” the environment, but if that doesn’t work, there may be yet another taxpayer-funded deep-clean and carpet change. We can’t really fault Ryan for making this a priority, though. We wouldn’t want to work inside an old ashtray, either.

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